It’s time to move past election warfare
“Scorched earth” has been a military tactic since Biblical times – stripping the land of livestock, burning crops and homes, poisoning wells. The purpose not only was to deprive the enemy of sustenance, but also to strike a psychological blow.
The tactic was used to great effect by Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman to break the heart of the Confederacy in the Civil War. The Vietnam War and Desert Storm are more recent examples, using modern science and technology to lay waste to the countryside.
To destroy a country in order to “save” it is to achieve a pyrrhic victory. With the upset of District 3 incumbent Elizabeth Martin by Robin Sutherland and the cliff-hanger contest between Drew Bedwell and Bruce Conklin in District 4 in the Nevada County supervisors’ election, many have to wonder if the months of relentlessly negative campaigning have resulted in the political equivalent of “scorched earth.”
As the campaign staggered to its end, it seemed as if the candidates themselves were worrying whether the seeds for any future success would find sterile ground after the voters’ decision. There was new talk of “civility” and “common ground,” even as supporters couldn’t resist some final shots, including the defacing of campaign signs.
It seems hard to imagine that the defeated will forgive and forget. The Reconstruction period that followed Sherman’s destructive sweep across the South – one of the darkest eras in American history – lasted a dozen years.
And yet, for the sake of the future of Nevada County and the coming generations, we pray that the winners will be generous and the losers will be forgiving. We also hope they recognize that by working together we can meet the challenges that face us regarding population growth. “United we stand and divided we fall” is a slogan as true today as in Revolutionary times.
For wisdom at this time, we could turn to another military strategist, Sun Tzu, a Chinese general who lived about 500 B.C. and whose essays are collected in the classic “The Art of War.” He said:
“He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.”
Now is the time not to fight, but to work together for a better Nevada County.
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